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Natural Resources Conservation Service

Since 2009, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has partnered with the ACHP to support dedicated assistance in Section 106 program innovations and greater efficiencies in program implementation. This partnership has facilitated work to develop a new NRCS nationwide program alternative, targeted training, and relevant guidance documents and templates for compliance correspondence. 

The NRCS is a federal agency within the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Originally established by Congress in 1935 as the Soil Conservation Service,I-70 Mountain Corridor, Colorado the NRCS has expanded to work with landowners through conservation planning and assistance designed to benefit the soil, water, air, plants, and animals that result in productive lands and healthy ecosystems.
The fundamental elements of NRCS cultural resources policy involve protection and enhancement of cultural resources and historic properties in their original location to the fullest practical extent, and mitigation of adverse effects that cannot be avoided through treatment of the historic properties. Read more here. 

Many NRCS activities constitute undertakings under the definition in 36 CFR § 800.16(y) of the regulations implementing Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, “Protection of Historic Properties” (36 CFR Part 800). NRCS works closely through its assistance programs with landowners, state and tribal offices, and industry partners to assess the potential effects of its undertakings on historic properties. NRCS’ General Manual, Title 420, Part 401, “Cultural Resources (Archaeological and Historic Properties)” and its National Cultural Resources Procedures Handbook, Part 601, Subpart C provide guidance and instruction on the agency’s compliance with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act.

Section 106 Review

Numerous NRCS projects undergo Section 106 review each year. As with other federal agencies, the large majority of these undertakings are routine and are resolved in consultation with the State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO), Tribal Historic Preservation Officer (THPO), Indian tribes, Native Hawaiian organizations, local governments, and applicants without the ACHP’s involvement. However, where a proposed undertaking would adversely affect a historic property, the NRCS notifies the ACHP and certain cases, for instance, those that present complex issues or procedural challenges, warrant the participation of the ACHP.

The NRCS is currently operating under a nationwide Programmatic Agreement for Section 106 compliance. To view this Programmatic Agreement, click here. The nationwide Programmatic Agreement was amended in May 2012. To view the amended agreement, click here. To view the second amendment, click here.
See below for more information on the NRCS’ efforts to pursue a new nationwide program alternative.

Section 106 in Disasters and Emergencies

The NRCS follows 36 CFR Part 800 and its policies and procedures to comply with Section 106 during disasters and emergencies. NRCS has several programs that address emergency response.
Further, please see the ACHP’s guidance, "Role of Section 106 in Disaster Response- Frequently Asked Questions."

NRCS – ACHP Partnership

Beginning in May 2011, the NRCS partnered with the ACHP to support a full time senior staff position at the ACHP to serve as the principal point of contact for handling NRCS program and project review. The position is within the Office of Federal Agency Programs (OFAP) at the ACHP. In addition to assisting NRCS in completing Section 106 review, the ACHP’s liaison works with NRCS headquarters to develop and implement national policy and programs with the potential to affect historic properties. The partnership between NRCS and the ACHP has had many benefits, and has resulted in:

  • Tracking patterns and trends in Section 106 compliance on NRCS undertakings and the development and implementation of State Level Agreements;
  • Dedicated assistance in early coordination for Section 106 compliance;
  • Technical assistance in improving consultation with SHPOs, THPOs, Indian tribes and Native Hawaiian organizations;
  • Focused assistance on the development of a new nationwide program alternative and guidance on the use of other program alternatives to tailor Section 106 review;
  • Guidance on meeting the reasonable and good faith standard as required by the Section 106 regulations;
  • Guidance on coordinating Section 106 compliance with the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act;
  • Assistance in meeting Section 106 requirements during emergency and disaster planning, and
  • Tracking patterns and trends in new Farm Bill program developments.

For More Information from the ACHP regarding Section 106:

NRCS Federal Preservation Officer
Sarah T. Bridges
Federal Preservation Officer/National Cultural Resources Specialist
Ecological Sciences Division
P.O. Box 2890
Washington, DC 20013-2890
Phone: (202) 720-4912
E-mail: sarah.bridges@wdc.usda.gov

NRCS Prototype Programmatic Agreement Update

Planning and preparation to determine whether NRCS should amend and update the existing nationwide “Programmatic Agreement among the United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation and the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers relative to: Conservation Assistance,” pursue another program alternative, or let the nationwide agreement expire and return to compliance under 36 CFR Part 800 has been ongoing for several years. The experiences of the practitioners operating under the agreement in the field, NRCS State Conservationists, SHPOs, THPOs, Indian tribes, and Native Hawaiian organizations, have been essential to this determination. Consultation is currently on-going.

The NRCS, NCSHPO, and the ACHP executed a limited amendment to the NRCS nationwide Programmatic Agreement to extend its duration for 18 months (expiring on November 2, 2013) and clarify the NRCS' responsibilities to consult with Indian tribes and Native Hawaiian organizations.

The NRCS is currently pursuing a prototype Programmatic Agreement (Prototype Agreement) in accordance with 36 CFR § 800.14(b)(4). If designated, the Prototype Agreement would replace the nationwide Programmatic Agreement and provide a tool to structure NRCS’ compliance with Section 106. In a letter dated July 6, 2011, the ACHP advised the NRCS of its willingness to participate in the consultation process to consider the new nationwide program alternative.

The ACHP can designate an agreement document as a Prototype Agreement that may be used for the same type of program or undertaking in more than one case or area. Should the ACHP designate a Prototype Agreement for the NRCS, individual NRCS state offices would be able to develop state specific agreements with the relevant SHPO, THPO, Indian tribe(s), or Native Hawaiian organization(s) following the direction and principles of the prototype without need for ACHP participation in consultation or the ACHP’s signature. This program alternative would provide NRCS with a nationwide framework for coordinating Section 106 consultation as well as the flexibility to tailor individual agreements to the unique aspects of a geographic area or state.

The NRCS initiated consultation with NCSHPO, SHPOs, THPOs, Indian tribes, Native Hawaiian organizations, intertribal organizations, and other preservation partners in the fall and winter of 2011. Please see the ‘Program Schedule and Milestones’ below for more information.

Interested parties and members of the public may provide input or comments on this process at any time via the Comment Form. Additional information relevant to this effort is presented below.

  1. NRCS programs.
  2. ACHP guidance on developing and using a prototype Programmatic Agreement.
  3. Consultation with SHPOs.
  4. Consultation with THPOs, Indian tribes, Native Hawaiian organizations, and intertribal organizations, including the National Association of Tribal Historic Preservation Officers and the National Congress of American Indians.
  5. Consultation with preservation partners, including the National Trust for Historic Preservation; public outreach.
  6. Summaries of comments received during teleconferences with SHPOs, Indian tribes, and NHOs
  7. First Draft Prototype Programmatic Agreement
  8. Comment Form.

The NRCS point of contact for this initiative is Ms. Sarah Bridges, Federal Preservation Officer/ National Cultural Resources Specialist, Ecological Sciences Division, (202) 720-4912, sarah.bridges@usda.gov.

 

Updated April 15, 2014

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